BIRMINGHAM (AFP) - Lin Dan closed in on a seventh men's singles title at the All England Open badminton championships, when he reached Sunday's (March 18) final with a 21-14, 13-21, 21-11 victory over Chinese compatriot Huang Yuxiang.
If the 34-year-old beats another Chinese opponent, the seventh seeded Shi Yuqi, he will move to within one title of Rudy Hartono's record eight All-England titles, although the Indonesian's successes took place before the Open era.
The two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion is already assured of one record, though, after booking his place in a 10th All England final.
He was far from his brilliant best in Saturday's semi-final, however, as the unseeded Huang took advantage of a temporary drop in Lin's standard of play to take his illustrious opponent to a deciding game.
But Lin turned on the style again in the third game, with some clever changes of pace, and sudden penetrating attacks, exuding a confidence which suggested the result was never in doubt.
"I think I played quite well," he said. "I did make some mistakes and that was one of the reasons why I lost the second game. But all my colleagues have been playing well here.
"I will try to continue what I am doing and I hope that tomorrow I will take a new record," he said, referring to the Open era benchmark.
His opponent, Shi Yuqi, made sure there will be a Chinese winner when he beat Son Wan Ho, the fifth seeded Korean 21-17, 21-14, to reach the final for the second successive year.
There could be a record in the women's singles too, after Akane Yamaguchi, the World Super Series title-holder from Japan, reached the final in an exhausting one-hour 20-minutes encounter against Pusarla Sindhu, the Olympic silver medallist from India, eventually prevailing 19-21, 21-19, 21-18.
If Yamaguchi has enough energy left to beat Tai Tzu-ying, the top-seeded title-holder from Chinese Taipei, she will become the first All-England women's singles champion from Japan since Hiroe Yuki in 1977, when the game was still officially amateur.
Tai beat eighth-seeded Chen Yufei of China 21-15, 20-22, 21-3.
Yamaguchi snatched the second game with a dramatic net cord, and then fought back from 7-13 down in the decider.
"There were moments when I wanted to quit," she said. "The rallies were so tough, but I tried to hang in and keep up.
"Then I changed my mind, and just tried not to make mistakes. I think that saved me. Now I have a great opportunity."